Reno Gazette-Journal Sunday, May 10, 2020
For those of us who grew up through the hippie era of the 60’s and 70’s we probably heard terms such as weed, joint, hash, reefer, pot – and the list goes on. Perhaps some of us even had firsthand experience that we don’t want to talk about as marijuana wasn’t legal in this country.
Fast forward to 2020. Marijuana has been legal for medical use in Nevada since 2001 and more recently in 2017 for recreational use.
The fastest growing group of marijuana users in the US is older Americans. Marijuana use for those aged between 50 and 64 tripled between 2003 and 2014. And for those 65 and older, usage grew tenfold over the same period! Older adults represent up to half of all medical marijuana users. Why? The draw of improved health.
However, this raises many questions. Are marijuana and cannabis one and the same? Is it safe? Under what circumstances does it work? Do you need to get high to experience health benefits? Will it interfere with prescription medication? Does it really help with arthritis pain? What about Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s?
An upcoming seminar, “The Truth about Cannabis for Seniors,” will feature a panel of experts who will address the myths and truths surrounding cannabis, answering many of the questions senior adults have about its use.
Expert panelists will include a well-known medical doctor, a doctor of geriatric pharmacy from the University of Nevada Reno, School of Medicine, and a local dispensary which cultivates and sells a wide range of cannabis-based products.
“There are many misconceptions about the use of both medical and non-medical marijuana in the state of Nevada,” said seminar co-host Brett Junell. “Our panel of experts will speak to the myths and realities associated with marijuana use by seniors.”
Cannabidiol (CBD) oil is the second most prevalent active ingredient of marijuana. However, the CBD oil sold in stores typically is derived from the hemp plant, a cousin of the marijuana plant. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the main psychoactive compound in marijuana that gives the high sensation.
Both compounds interact with your body’s endocannabinoid system, natural cannabis-like molecules produced by the human body. As early as the 1990s, scientists began to realize cannabis exerted its effects, in part, by mimicking a person’s own endocannabinoids. Researchers think the main function of the endocannabinoid system is to maintain bodily homeostasis – biological harmony in response to changes in the environment.
Individuals applying to become a medical marijuana patient must be diagnosed with one of the prescribed chronic and debilitating conditions. Now that recreational marijuana has been legalized in Nevada, why get a medical marijuana card? There are several benefits which the seminar panelists will address.
While legalized medical cannabis may be a boon to older Americans, boosting their health and overall wellness, research has largely ignored older adults even though they experience the highest rates of medical issues, some of which could possibly be helped with the use of medical marijuana.
What about the “stoner” stigma surrounding marijuana?
For the most part, the medical community is not well versed in the benefits or any adverse medical consequences due to the lack of research and teaching in the United States. No federal funds are available given marijuana is not legal at the federal level, even though 33 states have legalized marijuana for medical use.
It is also suggested by some that powerful lobbying groups in the pharmaceutical industry oppose any promotion or research into the medical use of cannabis as this would be direct competition to many drugs and hence profit margins.
However, a recent National Institute on Aging funded study found there was a 4.8 percent decrease in reported pain for conditions which typically qualify for cannabis treatment (cancer, arthritis, glaucoma and generalized pain), compared to states without medical marijuana.
Similarly, 6.6 percent more seniors reported very good or excellent health in states with medical marijuana.
A New York-based neurological institute study found recipients over 75 who took medical marijuana reported less pain, and their use of various cannabis products allowed a third of these patients to reduce their use of opioid painkillers.
About 7 out of 10 patients experienced some symptom relief, researchers found. Half said their chronic pain diminished; 18 percent said they slept better; nerve pain improved in 15 percent, and anxiety was quelled in 10 percent.
There were some downsides. Initially, 34 percent of patients experienced side effects from medical marijuana, most commonly sleepiness (13 percent), balance problems (7 percent) and gastrointestinal issues (7 percent).
For those interested in learning more about marijuana for seniors, the webinar titled The Truth about Cannabis for Seniors, will be held May 22 from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. via phone or video conference using Zoom.
The seminar is free to seniors and their guests. Registration can be made online at www.RetiredLivingTruthSeries.com or by calling (775) 432-6398 to receive Zoom Webinar access & instructions.
This article is sponsored by Annette & Brett Junell.